Friday, 30 November 2012

Leveson delivers his report

    Yesterday's big news: the publication of the Leveson inquiry report into the culture, practice and ethics of the press. The stories in the public mind involve tapping into the phone messages of murdered children and other similarly criminal activities, but the remit of the inquiry covered all abuses committed.
    Good news for vulnerable and marginalised minorities like us in the transgender community. Trans Media Watch made a very well received submission which was mentioned by Leveson in several places through the report.
    The most significant quote is mentioned in TMW's response to the report(PDF).

it is clear that there is a marked tendency in a section of the press to fail to treat members of the transgender and intersex communities with sufficient dignity and respect... parts of the tabloid press continue to seek to 'out' transgender people notwithstanding its prohibition in the Editors' Code.

    In gathering a corpus of transgender related news stories I've seen ample evidence of this in action and I'm sure I stand with the rest of our community in particularly welcoming this mention of the problem in the Leveson report. TMW asked me for a copy of the corpus before delivering the submission, I hope it was of use to them.
    There seems to be some confusion on the part of the politicians over what sort of legislation is required to implement Leveson's recommendations. It is very clear that they must do something, let's hope it doesn't turn into a "Something must be done".

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Closing down a story

    I can't help feeling that during the last few weeks we have witnessed an expert closing down of a potentially embarrassing news story. If you aren't British or you've been on Mars for the past few months you'll have missed the exposé of the British TV personality of yore Jimmy Savile as a paedophile, and the subsequent witch hunt for other contemporary celebrities in a supposed elite paedophile ring. A few celebs from the 1960s and '70s have been interviewed by the police, and the tabloids have been full of gossip as you'd expect.
    Then came a different exposé on the BBC Newsnight programme, with abuse victims who were former inmates of a notorious childrens home dropping strong hints of a paedophile ring among senior politicians of the era. A Labour MP (who I was at university with and regard from that experience as not someone I'd trust) dropped more hints that he was about to name names, and if you were prepared to surf Twitter you could compile a list of those names very quickly.
    Unfortunately for the accusers one of the names was vehement in his declarations of innocence, and being very rich indeed he reached for his lawyers and started to sue. Story closed.
    I find myself to be rather uncomfortable with this outcome. Witch hunts are never appealing and anything which fuels the obsession that paedophiles lurk behind every lamp post can not be a good thing. However there are witnesses in this case, real abuse victims. Not irresponsible Twitter users, real orphan children who were abused regularly by rich and powerful people. And their story has been closed down. Any of their abusers who are still alive have got away with it.
    The trouble is, go down this road too far and you're straying into the world of Establishment plots and conspiracy theories, of grassy knolls and the Strategic Steam Reserve. But something within me rebels at the thought that the only two politicians who have been revealed are conveniently dead and any other names that came from the victims seem to have been forgotten.
    You can't help wondering whether the embarrassment in the corridors of power would have been too much had the story been properly investigated. But If I had those thoughts I'd be sitting with those who believe we're ruled by the lizard people, and that'd be too much to stomach, wouldn't it.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Oh, hello 4:30

    A few years ago when I started this blog, I did so because I was at one of the most difficult times of my life. After years as a closeted observer of the transgender world I had been forced out into the open by a very physical manifestation of my problem: I had lost the ability to sleep. The stress of it all had made itself felt in an extremely inconvenient manner.
    It took me several months and the help of medication to regain my equilibrium, and about a year before I could come off the medication without reverting to insomnia.
    It's given me a legacy I'd prefer not to have, every time I wake up at an unfeasibly early hour I worry that I've fallen back into that particular pit. Like today, sitting in bed wide awake since sometime after 4am. Same night time city noises as three years ago, the trains and the church clock, just a slightly older me with an Android tablet rather than a Windows laptop.
    There's something Jobesque happening here. Facial pain, now this. At least thus far there has been a complete lack of boils and pestilence.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Careful with the gym skirts...

    A few weeks ago I accompanied a friend to East London to a well-known shop serving our community. She seeded to replace her breastforms and they are one of the better places to get them in the UK, having a good range at not exorbitant prices, and crucially the opportunity to see the product at close hand.
    It's a useful shop for many different strands of our community. My friend is long-ago transitioned for example, and I have found some of the few decent ladies shoes that fit me there. However it is also known for catering for the more flamboyant end of our spectrum. I guess that's where the money is. So alongside the more normal ladies clothing you'll see PVC dresses, little girl dresses, crazy high heels and sexy schoolgirl outfits.
    A notice in front of the counter caught my eye. I guess it must be aimed at East London's more light-fingered youth rather than the clientele, but in the context of the shop in question it amused me. A lot.

    "No more than two schoolgirls are allowed in the shop at any one time."

    I felt it would have been rude to laugh out loud in the shop, so I had to contain myself.

Friday, 9 November 2012


    I'll keep this post brief, because sitting up to write it hurts. I'm unfortunate enough to suffer from periodic attacks of atypical facial pain, a bland medical description for what I'm told is among the more intense chronic pain conditions it is possible to suffer. The left side of my face is alternately in extreme pain yet strangely numb, or dulled by painkillers to an aching tiredness. There's nothing wrong with my face, teeth or mouth, instead my trigeminal nerve is betraying me by telling my brain about pain that shouldn't exist.
    I'm lucky in how this condition affects me. I get it for about a week, roughly once a year or eighteen months or so. It's usually triggered by stress situations like my currently heightened gender wrangles, and yet again I'm lucky in that painkillers have some effect on it. Some people with this condition have it all the time and painkillers don't work.
    Pain this intense is debilitating. I've had pain before, broken a toe and a rib, split fingernails, had headaches and stomach aches like everyone else. The normal bumps and scrapes of growing up. But nothing like this. Unrelenting, merciless.
    I can understand why it drives some people to suicide.
    My doctor has given me some pills, not a painkiller but an anti-epilectic. Surprisingly the recommended prescription for errant trigeminal nerves. It hasn't worked yet.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Spare a thought for the white heterosexual male

    For most of my life, I have been put-upon, marginalised, and had my rights taken away from me. As a white heterosexual male I have seen a steady erosion of my workplace rights, my freedom to live as I wish, and to practice my beliefs. Meanwhile any bunch of rabble-rousers from a so-called minority can walk in and do as they please, and I'm expected to pay for it all through my taxes.

    Enraged yet? I hope so :). The paragraph above is of course rubbish.

    There are bad things about being a white heterosexual male. The ruthless intolerance of failure, and the expectation to conform to a rather ridiculous ideal, to name two examples. But as someone who can still mount a world-class performance of a member of that group when I choose it's rather obvious that it's not hindered me in life.
    So why the inflammatory first paragraph? I was trying to represent a very common view that you'll find not far below the surface of Middle England, and no doubt middle-anywhere-else too. A resistance to change coupled with a suspicion that someone else might be getting a Better Deal forms itself into a boiling resentment. You'll find it in every field, from race relations, gender politics and policing, through to the allocation of NHS services and cycle lanes on busy roads. The comment streams of any mainstream news website provide ample demonstration, voted up on the Mail and Express sites and voted down on the Guardian site no doubt.
    It is important to realise that the people who express such views are generally not bad or evil. Some of them may vote for a different political party than you do, others may not. It's simply that they see the problems in their, the majority's lives being ignored while public money they see as rightfully theirs is lavished on those of a minority they perceive as undeserving. And it is thus also important to understand that while their reasons may not chime with everyone's politics, their resentment is no less real for it.
    It pains me then to see how such views are dealt with from the other side of the fence. Usually dismissed out of hand in a cloud of invective which only deepens the resentment and makes things worse. I'm thinking about some of the more vocal elements of the cycling lobby as I write this, there are times when I want to cry "SHUT UP! You're only MAKING MATTERS WORSE!" in that arena.
    That's the thing about majorities you can't deny: ultimately in a democracy they do control the purse strings so winding them up for the sake of it, while it might make you feel better, is unlikely to be productive.
    Far better to engage with the resentment and try to defuse it, however thankless a task it might seem at times. It's a marketing challenge not a political one, and it is not an insurmountable challenge. While there will be people who are unswayable there will be others who can be reached, and for every one of those another personal sphere of influence is tapped into.
    So to return to the rather inflammatory title of this piece: spare a thought for the white heterosexual male. Or anyone else whose disagreement with your views is based on resentment. Understand and engage with the resentment, and who knows, your efforts just might bear fruit.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Everything I've worked to avoid

    This morning's hot link in the world of trans people, in the UK at least, is this: "My Husband's Sex Change". A piece in the Guardian from the ex-wife of a now-transitioned transwoman about the process of change from the husband and father she once knew to the transitioner from whom she separated.
    Some of the language isn't what I'd prefer to see - "Sex change", how delightfully 1970s - but the Guardian lives up to its reputation for serious journalism by not sensationlising the story and using the words of the woman herself.
    It makes rather depressing reading to be honest. Of course it's only the partner's view, but she does not come across as quite so vitriolic as many I have encountered in her situation and it is possible to read between the lines.
    And I'm afraid her husband - "Tom" as he is described in the piece - comes across as a bit of a selfish arse. Read the piece and judge for yourselves, but I came away from it both angry and sad. Sad for her and her children, and angry that we have yet another depiction of us as selfish to contend with.
    Sometimes I have people within this sphere expressing bewilderment at my path. Reading the piece, maybe they'll understand. Not hiding anything and making sure my wife knows the trans community as I do means that while our relationship still has its turbulent moments we're still together and there is no deceit.
   One of the saddest parts of the trans experience is meeting people crippled by what they have lost. If that ever happens to me I never want to feel I didn't do my utmost to avoid that loss.